Monthly Archives: June 2014

Presenting a strong offer

iStock_000019216251Small-250.jpgIt’s disappointing, frustrating and sometimes, discouraging when you lose a home you want to buy.

One of the hardest lessons for today’s buyers is that writing an offer doesn’t mean that you’ll get the home or even a counter-offer.   The low inventory affecting many of the housing markets requires a different strategy to give you the best chance to get the home you want.

  1. Make your best offer initially; you may not get a chance to accept a counter.
  2. Submit a written pre-approval letter from the lender.
  3. Increase earnest money above what is considered normal.
  4. Make a larger down payment.
  5. Eliminate unnecessary contingencies.
  6. Don’t ask for personal property not included in the listing agreement.
  7. Pay your own customary closing costs.
  8. Shorten the inspection period.
  9. Buy the home “as is” subject to inspections which still allows you to get your earnest money back if the inspections are unacceptable but doesn’t require the seller to make repairs.
  10. Write the seller a hand-written, personal letter telling them why you want their home; include a picture of your family.
  11. Offer to use the seller’s or listing agent’s preferred title company.
  12. If you can pay cash, do so and arrange financing after closing.   Be prepared to show proof of available funds.
  13. Schedule the closing as soon as possible but let the seller know you can be flexible.
  14. Once you decide on a home, act with expedience.
  15. Ask your real estate professional if they have any other suggestions.

Think of making an offer like applying for a job.  You want to make your best impression and show why you are the best choice.   You won’t always know that there are multiple offers.   Approach the process like the competition is doing their best to get the home.

Rules for real estate investments

rules3.pngThe profit potential in single family homes for investment has been a consistently good long-term investment. They offer investors the opportunity of high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for 30 years on appreciating assets, tax advantages and reasonable control that other investments don’t offer.

Last year, Warren Buffett said that if he had a way of buying a couple hundred thousand single-family homes, he would load up on them. Blackstone group L.P. (BX) has now purchased over 30,000 homes and American Homes 4 Rent (AMH) has more than 19,000 for rental purposes.

Individual investors actually have an advantage over the institutional investor but if they are not familiar with rental real estate, some basic rules could be very helpful.

1. Invest now to get more in the future.     Whether it is time, effort or money, the prudent investor is willing to forego immediate gratification for something more at a later date.

2. Real estate is an IDEAL investment.     IDEAL is an acronym that stands for income, depreciation, equity build-up, appreciation and leverage.

3. Invest in single family homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods at or below average price range.     This strategy should involve homes that will increase in value, rent well and appeal to an owner-occupant in the future who will pay a higher price than an investor.

4. Location, location, location.     The same homes in different areas will not behave the same. You can improve the condition, modify the terms or adjust the price but the location can’t be changed.

5. Understand your strategy – buy and sell, buy and hold or buy, rent and hold.     These three distinct strategies involve big differences in acquisition, management and taxation.

6. Know where your profit is coming from before you invest.     The four contributors to profit are cash flow, appreciation, amortization and tax savings. They don’t contribute equally or the same in all investments.

7. Profit starts with purchase.     Buying the property below market value builds profit into the investment initially.

8. Risk is directly proportionate to the reward involved.     An investment that has a high degree of upside also will have considerable downside possible.

9. Avoid functional obsolescence unless you have a plan before you buy.     The lack of usefulness or desirability of a home that exists when you buy it will still be there when you sell it. Unless it can be cured, it will affect future profit.

10. Good property + good tenant + good management = great investment. These are three solid components for a successful investment.

11. Problems left unresolved have a tendency to get worse.     It is generally cheaper in time or money to fix a problem earlier rather than later.

If you’d like more information about the opportunities in our market, contact me.

Mortgage insurance information

iStock_000023022788Small-250.jpgIn a study released by TD Bank, 65% of buyers with mortgages that required mortgage insurance said the higher monthly payment was more than they originally expected.

Private mortgage insurance is required on loans that exceed 80% of the home’s value.   For conventional loans, the premiums range from 0.5% to 1% annually.   The PMI could add close to $100.00 a month to the payments on a $200,000 mortgage and over $200.00 a month on a FHA mortgage.

FHA has two components to its mortgage insurance which includes an up-front charge on closing of the loan and an annual charge.   The up-front premium is 1.75% of the mortgage which can be paid in cash at closing or added to the mortgage amount.   The annual premium ranges from 0.45% to 1.35% depending on the loan-to-value and term of the mortgage.

Most lenders are required to automatically cancel coverage when a 78% loan-to-value is reached which on a 30 year loan with normal amortization could be eight to eleven years depending on original loan amount and interest rate.   If the value of the home has increased as documented by an appraisal so that the current mortgage is below 80% loan-to-value, the lender can be petitioned to eliminate the PMI.

Beginning in April, 2013, FHA requires the mortgage insurance to be paid for the entire term of the mortgage.   Prior to this rule change, it was required to remain in effect for a minimum of five years but could be cancelled when the mortgage is reduced to 78% of the original purchase price.

A homeowner can greatly reduce their cost of housing by avoiding mortgage with a minimum 20% down payment.   If a higher loan-to-value mortgage is required to purchase the home, the objective should be to pay down the mortgage amount to relieve the need for the mortgage insurance.   Generally, loans with lower loan-to-value mortgages also have lower interest rates.

Home improvements

Register-250.jpgThere is a significant difference in how the money you spend on your home is treated for income tax purposes.   Repairs to maintain your home’s condition are not deductible unlike rental property owners who can deduct repairs as an operating expense.

On the other hand, capital improvements to a home will increase the basis and affect the gain when you sell which may save taxes.

Additions to a home or other improvements that have a useful life of more than one year may be considered an increase to basis or cost of the home.   Other increases to basis may include special assessments for local improvements like sidewalks or streets and amounts spent after a casualty loss to restore damage that was not covered by insurance.

Unlike repairs, improvements add to the value of a home, prolong its useful life or adapt it to new uses.

You can read more about improvements and see examples beginning on the bottom of page 8 of IRS Publication 523.   For a form to keep track of money you spend, print this Improvement Register.